Vast solar system detected 127 light years away

Astronomers have confirmed the presence of five planets and have tantalising evidence of two more, reports the Telegraph. The distance of the planets from their parent star follows a regular pattern, similar to that seen in our own solar system. The study is scheduled for publication in the journal Astronomy And Astrophysics.

"We have found what is most likely the system with the most planets yet discovered," said Christophe Lovis, who led the European Southern Observatory (ESO) scientists. "This remarkable discovery also highlights the fact that we are now entering a new era in exoplanet research: the study of complex planetary systems and not just of individual planets.

"Studies of planetary motions in the new system reveal complex gravitational interactions between the planets and give us insights into the long-term evolution of the system."
The parent star, known as HD 10180, lies in the southern constellation of Hydrus 127 light years away.

Astronomers patiently studied it for six years using a planet-finding instrument called the HARPS spectrograph, attached to ESO's 3.6 metre telescope at La Silla, Chile.
From 190 individual HARPS measurements, they were able to detect tiny wobbles in the star's motion caused by the gravitational tugs of its planets. The five strongest signals corresponded to planets with Neptune-like masses, between 13 and 25 times that of the earth.

These planets, with orbit periods ranging from six to 600 days, are separated from their star at 0.06 to 1.4 times the distance between the earth and sun.

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